The U.S. military has agreed for the first time to provide information to the International Committee of the Red Cross about prisoners held in secret detention camps in Afghanistan and Iraq, but it will continue to deny the organization access to them, military officials said Saturday.
The facilities are "short-term places" operated by U.S. Special Forces for newly captured suspected insurgents considered to have valuable information or to be serious threats, according to an official familiar with the subject who was not authorized to discuss it on the record. It is usually in "the early hours" of detention that interrogators "are able to gain the freshest and most valuable intelligence," the official said.
The military's agreement early this month to provide the Red Cross with at least the names of detainees in the Iraq and Afghanistan camps was first reported Saturday on the New York Times' website.
The Red Cross has long requested information about, and access to, such prisoners held at the U.S. military base at Bagram, Afghanistan, and in Balad, Iraq. Only a few dozen detainees are believed to be in each location at any time, usually for several weeks until they are transferred to longer-term prisons.
In Afghanistan, that normally means the main prison at Bagram, where the military holds about 600 people. Although the Red Cross has access to that facility, prisoners there have protested their continuing detention by refusing since last month to see Red Cross workers or participate in videoconferences with their families.
Unlike the large U.S. military prisons that once operated in Iraq, where military panels reviewed individual cases for release or transfer to Iraqi-run facilities, there is no review or adjudication process at Bagram. The military has delayed establishing one because Afghanistan lacks a functioning judicial system.